Well, I made it back to Chiang Mai! As promised, English speaking company, delicious food and a beautiful apartment were all waiting. We arrived back in the city Saturday afternoon and by bedtime I had moved into my apartment (upstairs from the new ATMA SEVA office!), gotten a much needed massage, eaten a delicious plate of pad see ew gai, and spent several hours spewing as much English as I could to Katherine over said delicious dinner. All in all, a great first night back in the city.
I have to say that the highlight of being back, other than the food and being able to communicate, was a spontaneous trip to a nearby district last night to celebrate Sangha Day, a relatively important Buddhist holiday that occurs on the full moon of the third lunar month (thanks, google!), which coincided with the dedication of the district’s new wat. We were invited to go out to this wat for a “ceremony,” which I took to mean a relatively quiet evening at the temple with the monks performing some sort of ritual. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, this is what we encountered:
Yes, that is at the wat. And yes, that is a dance party. We arrived around 5:30pm and went straight to a party at a friend of Natch’s, one of the teachers at Wat Doi Saket. The best comparison I can give for my American readers is that it felt like a 4th of July party. There were about 30 people already there, food lined up on long tables (including a “make your own noodle soup” station) and beer aplenty. There was even a DJ with massive speakers, not a sight unique to our party. As we drove down the street, we must have passed at least ten houses with the exact same set up. There may or may not been hours of Thai karaoke involved. It was quite the event. After stuffing ourselves, and I mean stuffing- the hosts kept bringing over more and more food, including a plate of recognizably barbequed pork… SO GOOD- we finally made our way to the wat. And by “made our way” I mean literally danced our way down the street to the wat followed by a truck loaded up with speakers and disco lights. There were people stopping to light off firecrackers, Thai ladies dancing with us, and plenty of singing and revelry.
Needless to say, this was completely unexpected and, I think, a wonderful way to celebrate the dedication of a new wat and holiday that celebrates the Buddhist community. No quiet, subdued ceremony, but a full on dance party that lasted well into the night with delicious food and fun new friends.
It was a wonderful first full day back in civilization! I’m looking forward to many more random adventures like this now that I’m back in Chiang Mai. On the horizon is Songkran, arguably the biggest holiday in Thailand, which is held during the hottest part of the year and involves everyone going outside and throwing water on each other. Yup, this is a national holiday. One I’d like to bring back to America.
Until next time,